Where It All Began: The PDF File

In this day and age, software such as Google Docs make editing and sharing documents online a piece of cake. This is why many question if PDFs are still a necessary tool in the commercial world and even in the field of education technology. The answer lies in PDF’s characteristics. For one, they can be quickly created. Also, they are convertible and so portable that they can be readily seen anywhere across the globe simultaneously. For those who would want to view a document in its original format, PDFs are still the best option.

This brings us to the question of how the PDF was born in the cyber world.

Adobe’s brainchild

Many users know the term PDF but probably do not know what it stands for. PDF is an acronym for “Portable Document Format”.

Like the popular Adobe Photoshop, PDF was developed by Adobe Systems, Inc., a global computer software company based in the United States. Historically, this Company has a record of concentrating on the development of multimedia and creativity software.

The idea sprung from the mind of John Warnock whose wife, Marva Warnock, interestingly designed Adobe’s corporate logo. As a visionary in the field of graphics and print technology, he thought of inventing something other than page description language which when used to print up a document, would preserve its format. This “something” came out to be a scripting language called Adobe PostScript, which was made available in the digital world in 1984. Instantly, it became popular around the world for its practicality and cost-efficiency.

And Adobe did not stop there. Almost 20 years later, in the early 1990s, Adobe further enhanced Warnock’s technology to come up with a similar one, a file format. This rapidly worked across all existing platforms and systems. Adobe “Carousel” was then born in 1991. The year after, the format was re-named as PDF 1.0.

At that time, however, the format could not be used fully without additional applications. This was when Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader came into the picture, enabling users to tap PDFs potential. These two applications were vital in maximising the use of PDF. Since their advent, users could now create PDF files from practically any printable program aside from being able to open PDF files with the Adobe PDF file Reader. With these apps in hand, finally, in 1993, Adobe introduced to the public a PostScript leveraging technology we came to know now as the PDF file format.

Further innovations on PDFs

Since then, new features were added to the PDF technology. From RGB colour spaces, bookmarks, and internal links, CMYK colour spaces and OPI specifications were introduced. In 1994, the Acrobat 3.0, otherwise known as PDF 1.2, was released. Along its release came Adobe’s marketing scheme of distributing Acrobat PDF file Reader for free. The result was a commercial success for PDF.

From 1999 up to the present, the world then became acquainted with various versions of Adobe Acrobat. There’s the Adobe 4.0, Adobe 5.0, Adobe 6.0, Adobe 7.0, and Adobe 8.0. All the enhancements were geared towards making the PDF technology more user-friendly. Later on, this supplementary app, the “Adobe Acrobat Reader”, was renamed as “Adobe Reader”, perhaps for easy retention among users.

Indeed, as something that sprouted from Post Script technology, the PDF has undergone a beautiful evolution. From being one man’s vision, it became a company’s success and the digital world’s proud contribution to humanity.

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Maria Dublin
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Maria is a writer, an editor, and a law student. She plays for the Philippine national touch football team, and does a lot of travelling during the holidays.